Recently, I voiced my disdain for Nick Cannon’s choice to paint his face white to promote his album, “White People Party Music,” that hits the stores on April 1, 2014. While I realize that Cannon’s not the first, nor the last Black comedian to use Whiteface (gosh, I hate that term) for humor, I was still disturbed that he made the choice. I also understand the painful history Blackface has and that it in no way compares to Whiteface, but it still bothers me. I’d rather no one paint their face the color of a different race for a cheap laugh. Because of my very strong opinion, I was asked to be on “Good Morning America.”
Shortly after that, Nick sent #TeamBeautiful a message, saying people forget that he’s a comedian first and his painted face was for the sake of his artistry. I rolled my eyes at his explanation.
So then Cannon offered me a chance to personally chat with him regarding the matter and the conversation shocked me. I found myself completely understanding his reasoning and even respecting his choice of painting his face white. Cannon changed absolutely every feeling of offense I had and enlightened me. “There’s a big difference between impression and oppression,” Cannon passionately stated during our chat. I was all ears. Check out his very intelligent explanation of his album promotion for “White People Party Music.”
HelloBeautiful: I’m curious to know why you chose to do these two White characters to promote your album?
Nick Cannon: I’ve been doing this since Nickelodeon.My first character was on “The Nick Cannon Show” and he was called “Dirty Larry.” I was this southern dude who drove a trash truck around that the kids on Nickelodeon embraced over a decade ago. It’s funny when people start putting it with Blackface and even try to come up with this whole new word (“Whiteface”) because Blackface was about oppression. I was doing an impression. There’s a big difference between impression and oppression, so if people don’t understand that, I have no words for them. The conversation is over.
HB: I was a bit offended by your choice to use White characters, but I’ve never thought about it as racism on your part and people are calling it reverse racism…
NC: First of all, there’s no such thing as reverse racism, it’s just racism. We all have differences, but the thing is, we need to embrace those differences. I’m glad this conversation is happening because lets embrace this, we’re different. Let’s laugh about these differences.
The problem is when there’s hate involved. There’s a big difference between humor and hatred. When you have malice involved then people get hurt and that’s happened, unfortunately, through the White community in the past to where there’s a lot of hate involved. That’s why racism is such a sensitive topic, specifically in America because racism exists all over the world, but we have a problem here in America because there’s a lot of hate and there’s a lot of blood that’s been shed over this.
But, to get past that, we’ve got to talk about it and we’ve got to be able to deal with it. There are facts involved that you can’t get away from. To this day, our people are a disenfranchised people. If White people want to trade, let’s go. If you want to give up 98% of the wealth this country, you could paint yourselves whatever color you want to paint yourself.
HB: You made a point saying that we didn’t get mad over your Blackface video with Affion Crockett and Nas…
NC: It’s all satire. Satire is exaggeration and irony and it’s made to ridicule the ideas that people are so complacent and used to going by. That’s the purpose. As an artist, I’m here to challenge your thoughts and if it intrigues you in a way where you’re offended, so be it. But, to me, I’m doing my job. Whether you love it, you hate it, that’s the beauty of being an American to where we could voice our opinions about these things.
HB: I thought about how people would feel if Macklemore did the same thing and painted there face Black and came out with similar music. How would that come across?
NC: He did, in a way [laughs]. That’s the thing. I challenge and welcome anyone to do anything like this, but you gotta be ready for the heat. I’m built for this. This ain’t the first time I’ve done something controversial. I mean, I made songs about abortion where I had people show up to my shows rallying and stuff like that. I’ve done records with R.Kelly in the middle of his scandal. I’ve never been a PC dude. This is old-hat.
I was doing sketches and stuff on MTV back in the day where I was creating restaurants called “Plantations” where White people come to get treated like slaves. [laughs] I’m excited that people are finally understanding I’ve been on this and I’m not scared of social commentary. You’re going to see a lot more from me on stuff like that. It’s just that I think people have a certain perception of me because of the stuff that’s been put out there of me, because they see me as a nice guy from “America’s Got Talent,” which I am. And I’m Mariah Carey’s husband, which I am. But, it’s like, I’m an artist! I’ve been on this grind since I was a teenager and if you watch my stand-up and all the different things I’ve done in my career, I’ve never played it safe. I’m excited about this time and I embrace every decision I’ve made as of recent.
HB: How do you feel about the album (“White People Party Music”) playing into this? Do you want people to take this album seriously?
NC: I don’t. I don’t care if I sell three copies or three million copies. I’m rich, I don’t really care [laughs]. I did this album for fun. I want everyone to have fun with it and I’m gonna continue to do it. My meals ain’t gonna change based on how well this album does. At the end of the day, I’ve invested so much more into this project than anything. I did it out of passion. I’m not trying to make sure I get the number one album in the country. I could really care less about that.
HB: Any last words?
NC: Have fun with it. I did it to not only encourage people to lighten up, but at the same time, to understand that there’s different perspectives in America and I always feel like Einstein put it the best, “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions different from the prejudices of their social environment.” I like expressing, so I don’t go along just to get along. It’s great that we’re having this conversation. I think, at the end of the day, it’s going to help everybody come closer together.
I feel closer to Nick already. Don’t you? Very well-spoken and explained. My respect for him has grown tenfold. I think I’m in love, but that’s another story for another day.
Check out this gallery of Black Women In History to know!